Last Friday, 1st April 2016 marked the start of the new energy efficiency standards for housing in England and Wales. This is the first step in the UK government’s long-term drive to improve energy efficiency in the private rental sector (PRS) through the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards.

Initially, tenants will be able to request consent to make energy efficiency improvements when they live in properties which do not meet the minimum standards, but ultimately it will be unlawful to let homes in England and Wales which do not achieve a minimum Energy Performance Certificate rating of “E”. This second stage of compulsory improvements will come into force from April 2018.

From last Friday the 1st of April, all PRS residential tenants have a legal right to request consent to make energy efficiency improvements to their properties. This applies to longer-term assured and regulated tenancies as well. Providing no upfront costs are required, any landlord who declines to improve the energy efficiency of their properties could be deemed “unreasonable.”

The landlord will not be able to unreasonably refuse consent. It will, however, be the responsibility of the tenants to ensure that the works are funded and the intention is that no upfront costs should fall on the landlord, unless the landlord agrees to contribute.

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Any property within the definition of a domestic privately rented property is within the scope of the tenant’s rights regulations, regardless of whether the property has an EPC at the time of the tenant making a request, but with a few minor exemptions.

If a tenant considers that the landlord has not complied with the regulations, they can take the case to a First-tier Tribunal General Regulatory Chamber, which will hear and determine applications.

From April 2018 a landlord cannot grant a new tenancy of a property with an EPC rating below an E, and after April 2020 when it will apply to all rented properties. It is likely – but not so far confirmed – that the minimum standard is likely to rise to a D rating by 2025 and a C Rating in 2030. A civil penalty of up to £4,000 will be imposed for breaches.

Flats and houses are all subject to the regulations. In the case of flats this means self-contained units. Non self-contained units such as bedsits do not require an individual EPC. Where a bedsit is within a property that needs an EPC, then the Regulations will need to be complied with before the bedsit can be rented out after 1st April 2018.

If a landlord lets and continues to let a property in breach of the regulations, that breach does not affect the validity or legality of the tenancy itself, so the rent will still continue to be payable.

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